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Smart TV May Be Too Smart for Its Own Good

If you’ve been anywhere near a consumer electronics retailer lately or have leafed through the consumer electronics circulars and ads that supplement Sunday newspapers, you’ve no doubt noticed the words “Smart TV” shouting out at you.

And if you’ve been wondering what a Smart TV is, or whether whatever it is may be smarter than you are, read on.

What It Is

Smart TV is the integration of Internet-delivered content with connected televisions. It’s distinct from a straightforward IP (Internet Protocol) television delivery where the programming is simply delivered via the Internet, because Smart TV includes OTT (Over the Top) services like Netflix and Hulu, as well as easy access to You Tube and Web browsers with search functions. Social network functionality is also prevalent.

In a Smart TV, these OTT products can be combined with traditional broadcast programming and a cable or satellite provider’s own VoD (Video on Demand) services. Google TV’s Smart TV product, for example, is designed to enable a pass-through layer for traditional television.

Smart TVs can be standalone televisions with built-in Smart TV functionality, or they can be set-top boxes enabling additional OTT functionality in existing traditional televisions.

OTT-like and other Smart TV-like functions can also be found on game consoles like Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii.

LG, Samsung and Sony are major players in both the all-in-one TV and set-top box markets. Players like Roku and Boxee sell set-top Smart TV solutions that they often call “video streaming receivers.”

Flummoxed by Fragmentation

One of the killer business models when it comes to Smart TV, is that it — like You Tube — can offer specialized channels. Independent movie theater chain Curzon has just launched an on-demand service via Samsung’s branded SmartTV product. These niche apps highlight the fragmentation — Curzon’s channel is not available on Sony’s Smart TV product, among others, for example.

“Samsung’s SmartTV was the logical choice for Curzon to launch its on-demand TV service, as it currently has the greatest penetration and is the most advanced Smart TV platform available at the moment,” said Tom Cape, CEO of Capablue, Curzon’s product developer.

“SmartTV is one of the most immersive and interactive experiences for a customer,” he told Technewswold, “and with more than 10 million apps already downloaded through Samsung’s TV app store, it is proving very popular.”

Apple TV and Google TV

Apple is expected to release an updated Smart TV, or similar product in the future that may include some kind of artificial intelligence or previously unseen UI element. AHbb-Next, a European Hybrid broadcaster unrelated to Apple, is developing a face recognition EPG (electronic program guide.)

Google TV’s product will be embedded in televisions from multiple different manufacturers.

“With Google TV, you get unprecedented access to and control of more entertainment for your TV,” Matt McLernon from the Google TV team told Technewsworld.

“This includes live TV, millions of new channels from the Web, more than 80,000 movies and TV shows available on demand, and new apps coming to Google Play every day,” he said. “We’re working closely with our partners to bring lots of ways you can enjoy Google TV, and expect to see more Google TV options coming out later this year.”

Shootout and Land Grab

We’re already seeing the results of television maker shootouts, with Sony recently announcing 10,000 layoffs — about 6 percent of its workforce — as the consumer electronics land grab continues.

Sony has been having a problem competing with Samsung and LG in the TV market, despite an aggressive push into Smart TV. They have been cutting into Sony’s market, and we’re likely to see more land-grabbing.

Smart TV and the Second Screen

“The trend of viewing live and on-demand programming on smartphones and tablets is accelerating,” Mark Hyland, general manager of EMEA for QuickPlay Media, told Technewsworld.

“Seventy-six percent of 18-to-44 year-olds in the UK indicated they are watching more TV on these devices than just one year ago,” he noted.

The Road Ahead

And how will it end? Could Smart TV become one of the most short-lived consumer technologies ever, paralleling the laser disc? Is it maybe Dumb TV that we want?

As smaller, portable devices like the tablet and smartphone provide our TV content, the television itself may return to being the dumb terminal in the corner, simply displaying what we shoot over to it using existing streaming technologies like DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) or You Tube from our companion devices.

We will see.

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